Happy Native American Heritage Month!
Celebrate Native American Heritage Month with us here at Gallopade! The best way to acknowledge and appreciate this time of year is to do one of our favorite things: travel through time and learn about various historical events that have taken place. Native people have enriched this country in many ways and have made an enormous impact and changed history.
Indigenous people have had significant influence in the U.S., from the fight for Native American rights to competing in the Olympics and so much more! Dive into the amazing individuals and noteworthy events that deserve recognition and celebration this November and year-round.
Ada Deer: Native American Activist
Ada Deer is no stranger to fighting for the rights of people, a cause deeply ingrained in the history of our nation. She is a member of the Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin and has spent her life fighting for the rights of Indigenous people.
Constance Deer, Deer’s mother, had a strong love and passionate sympathy for the rights of Native Americans. Deer wanted to follow in her mother’s footsteps and contribute to this cause for her people. She left the reservation she lived on with her family and attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Deer earned her bachelor's degree in 1957 after she had received a tribal scholarship, which made her the first Menominee member to earn an undergraduate degree from this university. Afterward, she was the first Native American to earn her master's degree at The New York School of Social Work (now Columbia University School of Social Work) in 1961.
After graduation, Deer pursued a career in social work with New York and Minneapolis public schools and in Puerto Rico with the Peace Corps. During this time, she was still working her way up to becoming a well-known political activist. The time and effort she put into fighting for her people's rights brought about the Menominee Restoration Act of 1972. This act allowed the Menominee Reservation to be federally recognized once again. After achieving this significant step, Deer became the first woman to chair the Menominee Tribe in Wisconsin from 1974 until 1976.
Later on in life, Deer was appointed by President Clinton as the United States Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs in 1993, and she served in this position until her resignation in 1997. She was the first Native woman to take this prestigious position. During her time as the assistant secretary, Deer played a role in establishing federal guidelines for over 555 tribes that the government recognizes.
After leaving her position in 1997, she began lecturing at the University of Wisconsin School of Social Work. She was named director of the American Indian Studies Program at the university from 2000 until 2007.
Deer passed away on August 15, 2023, in Fitchburg, Wisconsin. She gave a great deal of her life to advocating for the preservation and celebration of Native American heritage, and she was successful with this in multiple ways. Deer's life’s work was honored when she was inducted into the National Native American Hall of Fame in November 2019.
She has been a key advocate for Native American heritage over the years, and she will always continue to be one!
Ben Nighthorse Campbell: A Chief Amongst Chiefs
Ben Nighthorse Campbell, a renowned member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, has made numerous notable achievements during his lifetime and continues to make more. He was born in Auburn, California. His father was part of the Cheyenne Tribe, and his mother was a Portuguese immigrant. Campbell had an ancestor who was a Cheyenne Tribe member named Blackhorse, who was involved in the Battle of Little Bighorn.
Campbell decided to join the United States Air Force in 1951, where he fought in the Korean War. He earned the rank of Airman Second Class, and he was awarded the Korean Service Medal and the Air Force Medal during his time in the military.
He decided to attend San Jose State University after leaving the military and graduated in 1957 with his Bachelor of Arts in physical education and fine arts. During his college years, he developed a passion for judo, which led him to attend Meiji University in Tokyo. He completed his studies and graduated in 1964, all while training to represent Team USA Judo in the Summer Olympics that same year in Tokyo. He went on to win the gold medal for judo in the Pan-American Games in 1963. Unfortunately, he suffered an ankle injury that prevented him from further competing and potentially winning an Olympic medal.
When Campbell moved back to the U.S., he started a jewelry business in the 1970s — which is still in operation — based on his creativity and artistic ability to design award-winning jewelry pieces. The jewelry he creates involves symbols and designs based on his Cheyenne heritage, and he gives credit to his father, who taught him jewelry-making techniques at a very young age. The pieces he creates tell the story of his people and culture with intricate designs and colors to bring them to life. He ended up winning about 200 different awards for his pieces. Campbell continues to design and create jewelry to this day.
Later down the road, Campbell decided to start a political career. He was elected in 1982 to the Colorado State Legislature, where he served for four years. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1992 after serving in the House of Representatives starting in 1987. This made him the first Native American to serve in the Senate in over 60 years. While serving in the Senate, Campbell was a member of a handful of committees, and he was the first American Indian chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.
Mary Musgrove: Translator and Business Woman
Mary Musgrove is the name listed in many history books, but to the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, she is known as Coosaponakeesa. She was born around the year 1700. Mary belonged to the "Wind Clan," residing in Coweta Town, Creek Nation, near present-day Macon, Georgia. Her mother was a part of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, while her father was an English trader.
Because Musgrove had parents from two different cultures, she learned quite a bit about both cultures growing up. Musgrove learned to speak English relatively young while also learning about the customs of her father’s English culture and the Native American culture that her mother came from.
As she got older, Musgrove gained skills that led her to a position in negotiation and translation. She first married John Musgrove, an English trader from South Carolina, around 1716. Together, they developed a trading post called the Yamacraw Bluff, located near the Savannah River. This is where Mary met and impressed James Oglethorpe with her interpretation skills. Oglethorpe wanted to develop the Georgia colony, and he hired Musgrove as the official interpreter to maintain the peace and communications between the different communities. This experience aided in her becoming a successful businesswoman.
Two years into working with Oglethorpe, John passed away. Musgrove inherited her husband’s 500 acres of land in Georgia, the trading post they built together, and a deerskin trading business. She worked for Oglethorpe for about 11 years, and eventually, she successfully negotiated relations between Yamacraw Chief Tomochichi and the Savannah settlers.
Musgrove was a very wealthy woman when she decided to remarry. She married Jacob Matthews in 1737, and they created another trading post near Florida called Mount Venture. Sadly, Matthews died in 1742, but Musgrove remarried again in 1744 to Thomas Bosomworth, an English clergyman.
With this new marriage, Musgrove earned a higher social ranking in the community because of her husband’s position, giving her more authority in her interpreting role. She and Bosomworth developed another trading post together along the Altamaha River, just like before. With this power from her hard work over the years as a negotiator and her most recent marriage, Musgrove did everything she could to keep the peace between the English and the Native American communities to ensure the success of the development of colonial Georgia.
Musgrove died around 1763 on St. Catherine’s Island, Georgia. In 1993, she was honored as a “Georgia Woman of Achievement.”
Ways You Can Celebrate at Home or in Your Classroom!
Need some attention-grabbing ideas for ways to celebrate Native American Heritage Month with your kids or students? Here are a few that will get them excited to participate in this celebration!
Kids love the opportunity to win a prize, so why not create a fun, educational trivia game about Native American culture, history, and public figures to test their knowledge and get them excited? After teaching them about Native American Heritage Month, prepare a list of trivia questions relating to the various Indigenous cultures that were discussed.
Kahoot! is a great resource to use to create quizzes that kids always love. In Kahoot!, the computer calculates the number of students who answered the questions correctly, and it will rank the top three winners in the class. Having a prize for the winner(s) will give them motivation to study and perform well on the quiz for a chance to win some sort of goodie. This is always a fun way to incorporate Native American Heritage Month into class activities if you’re looking for a simple yet fun way to incorporate this material into your lesson plan!
Another great way to acknowledge Native American Heritage Month with your students is to look into volunteering opportunities with Native American-led nonprofit organizations and charities. During November, some of these organizations may have some great volunteering opportunities for people to participate in, so it can be a great way to incorporate this into learning more about Indigenous heritage.
Even if you don’t take the whole class out on a field trip to a volunteering event, it can still be a great idea to look up some opportunities that might be available in your area and provide the students and their parents with this information in case they would like to do it on their own with their families. Maybe even offer this as an extra credit opportunity if they participate!
Lastly, there are a couple more activities to help your class appreciate and learn about Native American heritage, and that can be simply watching a documentary or inviting a guest speaker to give a lecture about his or her culture. Watching videos in class can be a nice change of pace some days, and there are some out there that are really great for younger students to understand and gain some very insightful information.
Inviting a guest speaker can be a fantastic, attention-grabbing activity for students to hear the information face to face, especially if the speaker brings in a visual aid or objects of some kind that represent the heritage being presented so the students stay engaged. Younger students enjoy guest speakers because they can interact with them, and they have the chance to hear information from someone new who is personally involved in the culture.
Whether you give your class a fun pop quiz or invite a guest speaker, there are a handful of beneficial ways for students to learn more about Native American heritage in November. We hope you have fun in your classrooms this month with your students, learning all about Native people’s amazing culture and history.
Let us know what you decide to plan for your students this year by sending us a message via social media or creating a post and tagging us on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn, and X (formerly known as Twitter) using the hashtag #Gallopade. We would love to see what you do to celebrate!
We’re Celebrating All Month Long!
There have been — and continue to be — so many influential Native people who have strived to change things, not only for their people but also for people worldwide. We encourage you to browse our Native American Heritage titles to discover more about the people and places that shaped the various Indigenous tribes and nations’ rich cultural heritage and history.
Stay tuned for more exciting Gallopade blogs filled with helpful information and resources. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and X for more information about Native American Heritage throughout November!
Alexander, Kerri Lee. “Biography: Mary Musgrove.” National Women’s History Museum, 2019, www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/mary-musgrove.
American Indian Education Fund. “Notable Native Americans: Ben Nighthorse Campbell - American Indian Education Foundation.” American Indian Education Fund, www.nativepartnership.org/site/PageServer?pagename=aief_hist_nna_bencampbell. Accessed 25 Sept. 2023.
Heiman, Nicole. “Forging Firsts: The Remarkable Life of Ada Deer.” Wisconsin Alumni Association, 16 Aug. 2023, www.uwalumni.com/news/forging-firsts-the-remarkable-life-of-ada-deer/#:~:text=Her%20tireless%20efforts%20on%20behalf,held%20from%201974%20to%201976.
Page, Marisa. “How to Celebrate Native American Heritage Month.” First Nations Development Institute, www.firstnations.org/news/how-to-celebrate-native-american-heritage-month/. Accessed 25 Sept. 2023.